How To Promote A Self-Published eBook – Two Simple Ways to Get Major Results

I’m a huge fan of retro video games. Like many Reagan babies, I owned an NES, a Nintendo lunch box, ate Nintendo cereal, watched the Super Mario Bros. Super Show; I could go on, but you get the idea. After the NES faded in popularity, I went on to the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis, then the PlayStation and Nintendo 64, before losing interest when I attended college (Parties are more fun. Studying has its purpose too, I suppose).

Now, at 33-years-old and with a little bit of disposable income, I’ve started to collect some of the games I missed purchasing in my childhood. There are certain “brands” that I’ll buy pretty much anything from (e.g. Mega Man; Castlevania; Ninja Gaiden; The Legend of Zelda; Metroid; etc.), but what about the games I didn’t get a chance to play or that were unknown to me back then? I’ll buy a few of those too, but only if I see a demonstration on a YouTube channel, and hear some reputable voices vouch for it.

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The reason I include this anecdote is because the same methods that work for alerting me to retro video games that I should give a chance are the same ones that alert me and many other readers to self-published writers that are worth a read.

Dispel the notion once and for all that if you write it, they will come. They won’t. You have to get noticed or self-publishing is an exercise in futility if your goal is to make money and/or get people to read your writing. I’ve known many talented writers who choose to self-publish. What happens when they release their books? Nothing. It’s every self-published writer’s worst fear.

So, how exactly do you get readers and sales for your eBook? 

  1. Win over an influencer. Some think getting good reviews on Amazon or Smashwords are enough. Not true; they help, but you need to draw traffic first. The best way to do that is to have an Internet influencer promote you on their media. Who exactly qualifies as an influencer? A good ballpark figure is at least 1,000 followers on social media or WordPress, or the face behind a heavily-trafficked website that many people in your niche know about. While press anywhere helps, to get real results you need to get an endorsement from an Internet “star.”
  2. Give some of it away for free. That means giving free copies of your book to influencers. That means putting up chapters for free online. You’re not Dan Brown or Stephen King yet, so you have to earn your readers’ attention and show that you’re talented.

And that’s it. Are there other ways that you can promote your eBook? Of course. That said, if you want results in a big way and quickly, focus on the big win. Anything else is often just a tiresome waste.

Have you had success as a self-published author? Share a comment below to help aspiring authors. 

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How To Balance Writing, Publishing, and Networking?

My cousin Jerry, by most any account, has a pretty good life. He’s successful doing work that he loves, makes a nice amount of money, has a beautiful and charming wife, and three great children. When I talked to him about some of the initial challenges I was facing after I quit my job as an educator and planned to make a go of it as a writer, filmmaker, and entrepreneur, Jerry told me a story. As a man in his early twenties, he quickly earned more than double the salary of many of his middle-aged coworkers. How? When others put in 40 hours on the clock, with maybe 10 hours spent actually doing their jobs, he put in 80 hours, working beyond what was expected. Now, he doesn’t have to work so hard, though he still puts in a great deal time in projects he cares about. Those other guys, who knows what they’re doing now?

The point of this story is simple, if you’re serious about not just writing in your spare time, but making a career of being a writer, you’d better work hard. Still, even if you put in 80 hours per week, in such a competitive position as creative writing, if you’re not working smart, you just might end up stuck in as bad a position as Jerry’s former coworkers.

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One of the most difficult concerns for any writer looking to not just break in, but succeed, is the balance of writing, publishing, and networking. Here are a few suggestions that should help you work smarter, not harder:

  • Above all, write. One novel, three short stories, five poems – that’s not enough. Don’t even think about publishing or utilizing contacts and networking until you have a solid body of work. One success wouldn’t make a career, and the amount of time spent doing so is counterproductive. Make writing a consistent habit, have a lot of work to show around, and then start thinking about networking and publishing.
  • Understand that writing probably won’t make you rich. J.K. Rowling and Stephen King are the extremely rare exceptions. That said, many writers can make a living off of writing alone, many times even off of creative writing alone. It helps if your budget isn’t extreme. If you are single and live in an area with a low cost of living in the United States, you could probably get by on around $1000/month. While you wouldn’t be living well on that, you could survive. Then, through perseverance and building your reputation, you could make a good deal more.
  •  The Internet is your friend. Creating a blog centered around your writing, or other topics of interest to writers, could be a great way to attract attention. Taking a participatory role in the culture of the writing community online will open yourself up to many new opportunities. Helping others will lead them to helping you. Websites like Upwork and Craigslist present many opportunities for publishers looking for ghostwriters. The pay may not be great, but with a body of work, a high-character approach, and determination, you can get those jobs and build traction. Do so.
  • Don’t be an outsider. Jumping off the previous point, many communities on the Internet are niche. If you write science-fiction or romance or mysteries, find where those writers and readers gather and become a part of their communities. Above all, help as many people as you can. Being a self-serving renegade can kill your chances of succeeded in today’s literary world.
  • Understand your markets. Don’t submit a 80,000 word science-fiction novel to an avant-garde poetry site. Respect publishers by being familiar with the writing that they publish and reading a significant amount of it. When you read the work that publishers put out, you’ll quickly know if it’s similar to your own. If it’s not, don’t waste your time and the publisher’s time with a submission. There are so many magazines and publishers that there is bound to be one that’s a good match for your style. Use Duotrope, Poets & Writers, or the Writer’s Market and find it!
  • Don’t be afraid to ask a favor. In the words of new wave singer Morrissey of The Smiths, “Shyness is nice, and shyness can stop you from doing all the things in life you’d like to…” If you have a friend or other contact that could potentially lead to a solid break, don’t be afraid to ask them for what you need. The worst they can do is say no. Of course, make sure that you’ve done the basics first. Above all, follow their suggestions afterwards. Nothing burns out a good contact more than asking for a favor and not following through after someone does what you ask.

Taking these suggestions into account, you’ll be in an excellent position to advance your writing career. What do you think? What advice would you give to a new writer seeking to follow their dreams? Let’s start a dialogue.

 

A Guide To Publishing Etiquette

Maybe I have some sort of undiagnosed personality disorder, but one of my biggest pet peeves is writers who don’t follow the submissions guidelines for Beautiful / Losers Magazine. When a writer sends us an email with their poems or stories attached as a Word document, I become visibly filled with rage. My blood pressure shoots up. My smile turns upside down. And then I delete it, but not after having soaked in my righteous anger for a bit. If you don’t believe me, just ask my fiancee.

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The last thing any writer hoping to get their submission accepted for publication wants is for an editor’s face to look like the one of the man above. Chances are, if an editor has that face before even reading your submission, it’s toast.

So, how do you avoid making editors displeased? It’s simple, etiquette!

  • Always read the submissions guidelines and follow them to a T.
  • Find out to whom you should address your cover letter.
  • Send a respectful cover letter.
  • Don’t get angry if they reject your writing. Don’t respond at all in such a case.
  • Read their magazine first.
  • Submit work that fits with the aesthetic of their magazine. To find out what the aesthetic is, read it!
  • Be patient. Sometimes it can be a spell before you hear back from a publisher.
  • Don’t paste your submission in the body of an email if they want attachments.
  • And, of course, DON’T SEND YOUR SUBMISSION AS AN ATTACHMENT IF THEY WANT IT IN THE BODY OF AN EMAIL 😉

How to avoid making editors displeased? Treat your submission to a magazine or publishing house with the same respect you would take to a job interview. Put your best face forward, do your homework, follow the rules, and you’ll be in the best potential situation for success.

Did I miss anything in this post? What do you think are some of the things to avoid when submitting writing to a publishing house or literary magazine?

Thinking About Kindle Direct Publishing? Hire a Formatter!

Do you want to publish on Kindle Direct Publishing? Great! Just make sure to get your manuscript professionally formatted prior to uploading it on KDP or you might be less than satisfied with the results.

I was excited to roll out a collection of short stories, tentatively titled New Weird America, on Kindle Direct Publishing. I edited all ten of my stories once again, making sure they were as tight as possible. I wrote my dedications, my biography, my title page, my table of contents, the whole shebang. In less than a day, KDP had my title up and running. Two days later, I took it down.

A word to the wise – the formatting you use in Word (or Pages, or whatever you use to type your manuscript) doesn’t always translate so well to Kindle Direct Publishing. My table of contents looked completely off. My introductory pages were cut off in weird places. I didn’t even get a chance to actually see how my stories looked from the free introduction, but given what I had seen, it needed to be pulled.

With the new possibilities for reach using Amazon Direct Publishing, self-published authors need to consider the possibility of hiring professionals to format their manuscript for readability on Kindle. I found a website, Word-2-Kindle.com, that does this job for only $49. I suggest that anyone new to KDP utilize their service, or others doing the same.

The rap on self-published books is that they are of poor quality. Formatting issues that hinder a reader’s capability to enjoy your work are a big turnoff. To uphold the standards of your writing, make sure to get your manuscript professionally formatted prior to using Kindle Direct Publishing.

Self-Publishing: The (Potential) Rise of a New Literary Middle-Class

Hey, it’s been way too long since I’ve published an actual post here on The Literary Game. I can’t make any promises that I’ll post with any regularity, but let’s give this another shot. Before anything, I want to let you all know that I want to make some changes to this blog. I am not the god of writing. I have my perspective on things, and yes, I’ve been published online a bit and have a degree in Creative Writing, but the authoritative tone of the previous posts is going to be no longer. Instead, I want you to join me on a journey through the literary game. Together.

If you caught the farewell post a while ago, you might remember that I’m working on a new project, Beautiful / Losers Magazine, which you can check out by clicking here. Dario Cannizzaro, co-founder of the magazine and a good friend of mine got me to do a total 180 on what was once gospel truth to me – self-publishing. For my longtime readers, you’re probably aware of how much disdain I had for self-publishing. While it is true that there is a lot of weak, sloppy work out there in the world of self-publishing, there is some incredible stuff as well. Whether it’s easy to find, that depends on your Web savvy.

So, how did I change my perspective? Well, it all started when Dario mentioned to me and Austin Wiggins, the third member of our triumvirate of co-founders, that he had completed a novel titled Dead Men Naked. Dario asked if we would be so kind as to read his manuscript, and offer our thoughts. In short, it was damn good! Now prior to reading Dario’s book, I had been on a mission to get a poetry chapbook published. I know that the Big 5 publishers wouldn’t be interested, for obvious reasons; however, I reached out to a few friends in the “underground poetry” movement who are further along in their careers than I am. I had some leads, and some people who genuinely wanted to help, but it came to nothing.

Now there are many small presses that publish a wide-range of material, but generally, much of it is outside of my stylistic parameters. My poetry and fiction is edgy, with a raw spirit that I guess rubbed off on me from spending the better part of the last twenty years hanging out with crazy punk rockers and other assorted misfits. My work isn’t for the book club or professors at Yale, and many of the small presses cater towards a more elite set than my work, which purposefully tries to be accessible and portray life on the margins. That said, I kind of hit a wall, just like many other writers trying to get a book out.

After speaking to Dario, and hearing that a talented writer like him was going the self-publishing route, and later learning that Austin was planning to do the same, I realized maybe I should reconsider my skepticism of that path. The Big 5 are looking for people with platforms, books that can make a huge amount of money. The small presses, by virtue of their limited resources and reach, can’t provide a significant income and can be quite difficult and time-consuming to get published with, due to sheer volume of submissions, stylistic parameters, entry fees, and limited windows for submissions. For a writer who loves writing and wants to make it their career, self-publishing, with a little bit of luck, talent, and extreme skill in marketing, can lead you to the literary middle class.

There are many talented writers who are broke and struggling to find publishers for their material. Why not take my example, and give self-publishing a second look? Make a name for yourself online organically, and scale from there. You can write and make money at it, maybe not at Stephen King or J.K. Rowling levels, but enough to pay the rent while doing what you love, so give it a try!

Interview with Brian Anderson

I’m privileged to bring my readers a conversation with one of the finest up-and-coming novelists around, my good friend Brian Anderson.

In our discussion, Brian shares his thoughts on his excellent novel Groundwork, the writing process, and many other topics of interest to aspiring writers.

Brian Anderson, author of Groundwork, on the left, Alfonso Colasuonno, founder of The Literary Game, on the right.

Why You Should Consider Entering Literary Contests

A bit ago I read an article in The New Yorker by Malcolm Gladwell about the difficulties that young people face in a capitalist economy. Gladwell equated their big hurdle to rolling a boulder up a hill. Essentially, what Gladwell argued was that for any recent graduate entering the workforce, it has become a difficult process to gain that first foothold of credibility that can be parlayed into a long and fruitful career. Despite those initial difficulties, Gladwell posited that once established, for most it becomes relatively smooth sailing afterwards, aside from the fact that younger workers begin gunning for your spot.

The nature of the literary game serves as a perfect example of the truth of Gladwell’s analogy…

I myself faced many doubts about my writing ability. I had a professor at Beloit College write “Don’t make a career out of this” on an admittedly horrible short story I penned for his class. I wondered many times if I was only wasting my time writing fiction, poetry, and screenplays.

And then I landed my first acceptance letter from a competitive literary magazine, one that only accepted 13% of submissions. Mind you, the vast majority of submissions to that publication surely came from qualified writers with previous publications to their name who were submitting their best material. Despite how difficult it seemed before landing that first acceptance letter, since then it has been a steady and relatively easy progression of acceptances of my poetry and short fiction.

For you, perhaps your first admittance into the literary game might not come from a literary journal accepting your short work, an independent publishing house deciding to publish your manuscript or an agent deciding to represent you – your first big break may come from winning or placing in a literary contest.

If most everyone chooses to go one route, that being the route of trying to publish their short stories or poetry or get their manuscript picked up by an agent or small publishing house, then perhaps it might be worth considering trying something counter-intuitive like utilizing a literary contest to get your first break into the literary game.

Here are three reasons why you may want to consider entering one or more literary contests:

  1. It costs money to enter most contests. I fully understand that most people do not have money to throw around; however, imagine that you apply to five contests at an average cost of $20 each. For that $100 investment, if you win or place in any of the contests, you have just earned a major feather in your hat and can speed up the process of embarking on a career as a writer going forward.
  2. Few writers enter most contests. For many aspiring writers, the price, even as low as it is, is prohibitive. For established writers, only a handful of contests have “name recognition.” This creates a perfect opportunity for the aspiring writer hoping to make a name as many contests have only approximately fifty or so applicants, yet offer up slots for as many as ten writers to win or place.
  3. Contests grant instant credibility. Winning or placing in a literary contest immediately commands respect, making it easier for agents and publishers to take you seriously and opening up many doors for your literary career.

To learn more about specific literary contests, consider making a habit of visiting Poets & Writers. They have a page devoted to writing contests (+ grants and awards). Check it frequently and if a contest appears to be an appropriate fit, then take the risk and enter it!

What do you think about literary contests? Do you think they are a good method for aspiring writers to break in?